Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins made a stop at the Deadline Studio ahead of the Toronto Film Festival premiere of If Beale Street Could Talk, his adaptation of the 1974 novel by James Baldwin. The story follows a newly engaged Harlem woman who races against the clock to prove her lover’s innocence while pregnant with their first child.
“There was something very pure about young black love that was depicted and also the family dynamic of the Rivers and the Hunts families,” said Jenkins about why he decided on this piece out of Baldwin’s numerous works. “It just grabbed me.”
Jenkins made waves with his 2016 Oscar-winning Moonlight, and although there is much anticipation surrounding his followup, the director isn’t really feeling the pressure.
“When I adapted the book, I wrote it the same time I wrote Moonlight. I didn’t have the rights. It created a pressure-free environment so I thought nobody would ever see this… because of that I freed myself up.”
Barry felt the importance of staying true to the revered author’s story. “In the end, the adaptation is pretty faithful and that’s because you’re dealing with the greatest. So if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
While Baldwin’s piece was published in the ’70s, his theme of social injustice and wrongful incrimination continue to be relevant.
“The things that Baldwin was writing about were really relevant to his day but then you open the book and it’s so relevant to today,” said Jenkins. “In being truthful and honoring the source material, we show, in and of itself, just how little things have changed.”
But despite that, he added, “I think there is still hope. In speaking on these issues and trying to create art that reflects it… we can start to change it.”
Jenkins was joined in the studio by stars KiKi Layne and Stephan James.
The pic also stars Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal, Emily Rios, Ed Skrein, Finn Wittrock, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Regina King.
Check out the full video above.